The News of the World really should change its name to Celebrity Publicity Weekly, since the paper is increasingly just a vehicle for publicists to keep their celebrity client in the public eye.
And for good reason - the modern phenomenon of 'celebrity' means that people with minimal talent can become millionaires simply by being moderately famous.
(Just imagine a parallel universe where Christine Keeler's affair with John Profumo had taken place in 2004. Instead of facing prosecution, disgrace and obscurity, Keeler would be on the cover of FHM, a regular guest on This Week, a columnist for The New Statesman, launching her own lingerie range called 'Official Secrets', etc.)
This week the NotW printed pictures of the crap, one-note actress and ex-Brookside 'babe' Jennifer Ellison posing nude (yet again) for a lads' magazine, this time Maxim. As usual a 'sexy' quote was attributed to Ellison, who said she would like to 'recreate Sharon Stone's flash scene in a Basic Instinct sequel', ie. show her muff to the public for money.
But this sort of stuff doesn't even count as showbiz gossip. It's quite simply the story of a publicity-seeking actress trying to advance her career with soft-porn photo shoots, while her agent and publicist cook up salacious quotes for the press, eg. 'I love penises,' says Jennifer. 'I particularly love the penises of Maxim readers who may or may not be sitting at home masturbating over these pictures.'
In the same edition of the NotW, the paper does yet another favour for Robbie Williams' publicity team, running a highly complimentary, two-page kiss-and-tell story about a 'romp' with Argentinian model Amalia Granata.
Naturally, the 'romp' took place in the parallel universe of the News of the World, where everyone talks in strange puns made up by journalists - although it seems even the NotW is tiring of this pretence:
'After their marathon romp... gorgeous Amalia told the News of the World - through a translator, naturally - that her celebrity date was "one el of a lover". Or words to that effect!'
Yawn. It's worth noting that in the parallel NotW world normal social standards are inverted. Amalia goes on to say: 'Robbie acted like a real gentleman. He told me I had great tits and a lovely ass.'
What's weird about this is that noone really thinks saying 'you've got great tits' is gentlemanly. Of course the whole conversation between Robbie and Amelia is largely made up, but even so, the writers have bothered to float the idea that telling someone they've got 'great tits' is gentlemanly.
It's not. It's the sort of thing pissed-up nightclub boors say to passing women. So why are middle class journalists busily inventing new standards of coarseness for their proletarian readers? All we can conclude is that they really, REALLY hate and despise them. Maybe the NotW is planning to give away free Christmas cards to its working class readers, which it imagines are like Biffa Bacon's family in Viz: 'Have a fuckin' great Christmas, Mam and Dad! Yer a pair of fucking cunts but I fuckin' love ya!'
Anyway, as is usually the case with these stories, we discover that Robbie is a fantastic lover. According to Amalia: 'I'd definitely give him top marks, the best lover I ever had. He was very sweet, cuddly, affectionate and caring too. He wanted to make sure I was happy the whole time. And he always wore condoms.'
Well, that's something. The world doesn't really need more little Robbie Williams running around mooning at photographers and smugly telling everyone how wealthy he is - before going into a sulk and telling everyone to fuck off because someone stopped paying attention to him for a split second.
And this is what gives the lie to these 'Robbie Williams - greatest lover EVER!' stories. Anyone who's ever seen Robbie Williams interviewed or featured in a documentary knows that Robbie is the archetypal egomaniac celebrity tosser. When he's busy fucking some groupie he's never going to see again, why should his personality suddenly change?
However, the story does give a hint of the reality of celebrity/groupie couplings, when Amalia explains: 'One of Robbie's group took me to one side and said Robbie really liked me, would like to get to know me better and wondered if I'd go up to his room for a chat and a coffee.'
So Robbie gets one of his entourage to pimp for him? This is more like it, and a direct throwback to traditional 'treat 'em like wanking socks' rock star behaviour. You know the sort of thing: heavy metal acts getting roadies to round up the women in the audience they wanted to have sex with, or Tom Jones dipping his todger in TCP after banging starstruck fans because he was terrified of getting VD.
But it seems that these days newspapers are less interested in the traditional pursuit of nailing randy celebrities, and instead becoming part of their publicity machine. As a result, it's always '[Celebrity X] was a really considerate lover', never:
- '[Celebrity X] kept demanding anal sex. I wasn't happy about it but he got really angry and said "I can easily find some other fucking tart" so I finally gave in.'
- '[Celebrity X] came after about a minute then told me to get dressed and fuck off because he was meeting his mates in the hotel bar.'
- '[Celebrity X] kept interrupting our sex session to snort cocaine and argue with room service because they wouldn't bring him a 50-foot statue of himself made out of blue Smarties.'
But what's genuinely odd is that readers are actually interested in these obviously manufactured kiss-and-tell stories, which reek of being bounced back and forth between the newspaper and various publicists and lawyers, and which just happen to serve the publicity needs of the celebrities involved.
Are we reading too much into it, or might this latest story about Robbie have something to do with the fact that he hasn't had a hit recently - but almost certainly has some 'Greatest Hits' CD on sale in the run-up to Christmas?